How this came to pass, I don’t know, but whenever there’s any kind of “event” in our relationship—in the medical sense of the word, as in “he had a heart event”—I get to do the recap. In this marriage, I’m in charge of summing up.
“So,” I say, having finished my husband’s famously delicious Sunday French toast,“that was an amazing breakfast. I enjoyed it immensely and it wasn’t a bit spoiled by the brief set-to between the chef and his helper in the preparation stage.”
By the way Phil looks up blankly from the newspaper article he’s reading, I can tell he has no idea what I’ve just said. Either that or he’s entirely forgotten the “event.” This is a common occurrence with him. But not me. I never forget “events.” I mull them over and figure out how I can turn them into material.
I can’t blame Phil for not listening to me just now. He was reading the Denver Post article on our friend Joe Hutchison, who’s just been named Colorado’s Poet Laureate. No one more deserving. I recall doing readings with Joe back in the day, always loving his poems. I recall a poetry workshop he taught for my DSA writing students: what intelligent, insightful work he did, and how the kids raved about him afterwards. And he’s published as many books of poems as I have—if I had published thirteen more than the two I did publish.
Besides knowing Joe, Phil also knows the reporter who wrote the story. They’re often on neighboring exercise bikes at the gym. We also regularly see bylines by the parents of two of my former students. It’s getting to be a small world, the world of those who know how to put sentences together to appear in print.
I turn another page and see a photo of Chris Wineman, architect extraordinaire. “We know everyone in the paper this morning,” I say airily. Phil continues trying to read. That’s another of his irritating attributes: he doesn’t drop what he’s reading when I interrupt him.
“Did you get to the part where it says Joe has a tousled mane of gray hair?” I inquire.
“Well, come on,” Phil jumps to the journalist’s defense. “You don’t have time to develop original character descriptions when you’re on deadline.”
I suppose not. Still, that mane of hair cliché needs to be retired. It always makes me think of people as horses.
The part I really liked about this article is the description of Joe as a middle school student, wandering into the literature section of the library and picking up a book by the 15th century French poet, François Villon.
“He was smitten,” William Porter writes, “and his path was set.” There’s the magic. There’s the mystery. The way someone born an artist, though nothing in his background predicts such a calling, will blindly but unerringly find his way to the passion of his life.
Good job, Porter.
Meanwhile, back at the breakfast table, on the subject of our little “event,” Phil has not heard me, obviously, and these recaps are essential to the health of the marriage. “I said, the French toast was perfect, as always, and not spoiled by your yelling at the chef’s assistant.” Third person can be usefully deflective.
This time he hears me.
“The chef’s assistant needs to make the coffee and let the chef make the French toast,” he reminds me, somewhat huffily.
“I was just trying to point out that you had a good deal of smoke coming off that grill and your flame was probably too—”
Phil glares at me and I know I’m on thin ice. He makes the best French toast in town and always does so with a high flame. I’ve probably said something to him about it before. Well, O.K., maybe I’ve said it, in varying tones of alarm, seven or eight times before. This year.
Mostly, he simply asks if I wish to have Sunday breakfast made for me or not. Which tends to shut me up. Anyway, this could have been the ninth time in 2014 I’ve said something about the smoke and all. Which was when the yelling “event” happened. I was told—quite loudly—to stop interfering with the chef.
While raising one’s voice is not encouraged in this relationship, it sometimes can be understood.
“Thin ice” is a bit of cliché, isn’t it? Bother: I’m on deadline.
And the thing is, he had that flame too damn high.